‘Bits and Pieces: Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ by Fauzia Rafique

Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium
Sponsored by Geist magazine and Surrey Libraries
Presented by Surrey Art Gallery, SFU English, South of Fraser Inter-Arts Collective (SOFIA/c)

Most of ‘Bits and Pieces’ was presented on the second day of Sound Thinking 2015 Symposium ‘Voicing the City In/verse: Reading Surrey and the Super Suburb’. The event was organized by a team of amazing volunteers and staff, and it was beautifully convened by Phinder Dulai (SOFIA/c) and Jordan Strom (Surrey Art Gallery). The first panel ‘Edge City as Space of Exile and Refuge’ had myself, Cecily Nicholson, Joseph A. Dandurand and Heidi Greco. The second panel ‘Kinetic City /City in Motion’ had Sadhu Binning, Taryn Hubbard, Kevin Spenst and Tom Konyves.

The second day began with the Traditional Kwantlen Welcome and Drum Song offered by Kwantlen Nation Elder Kevin Kelly with Michael Gabriel and Joseph A. Dundrand. After, M.G. Vassanji gave an insightful keynote on the marginalization of spaces, artists and art. It was great to have Vassanji and Noorjehan visit from Toronto where the two have been working for the last thirty or so years to develop literary communities through organizing, writing, editing (Toronto South Asian Review) and publishing (TSAR Publications). At the symposium, Vassanji provided us with a larger framework for the subject, and with the depth that had been created, it was easy for me to bring it right back to Surrey.

Bits and Pieces

Writing and reading Surrey is challenging because Surrey in Vancouver Lower Mainland is somewhat like Muslims in North America, we have to begin by saying what we aren’t and what it isn’t. So, yes, Surrey is not boonies, not rife with violent Punjabi gangs, not a hotbed of crime, no, it’s not in the third world. It’s right here on the south bank of Fraser River, the city of parks, of future, of the desis; the city of prosperity and abundance, of poverty and violence; it’s an edge city of exile and refuge. Sounds like any of all cities to me, and yet so unique. In the next twelve minutes, i’ll present a few bits and pieces that i have carefully collected to contribute to this discussion.

The first item is a paragraph from the fourth and the last section of my novel Skeena that takes place in Surrey where Skeena, a 37-year old Pakistani Punjabi Canadian woman, arrives after having lived the last thirty years in Toronto, Lahore, and a Punjabi village.

‘This building is sitting on a ravine on one side, and Scott Road on the other. Brenda came for a visit last year, and she asked me why I bought a condo here when better residential areas were also available in Surrey. I could not find an answer for her then. Now, as I look at the ravine, it appears to be a cluster of trees in my village, and away from my view, there also is the continuous hum of a busy Ferozepur Road in Lahore.’

Skeena, Libros Libertad 2011

Next we have excerpts from a blog post on hijab, titled ‘Purdah Manifestations’, a contemplation on different forms of purdah and how it’s implemented in different places by different social segments of Pakistani Muslims, it touches my experiences in about six different cities in Pakistan before getting to Surrey.

‘In 2004, i saw a bearded male lead a burqa-clad and hijab-thrown woman at 72nd and 124th in Surrey British Columbia. For some reason, i got transfixed on the couple, and stood watching them till they walked out of my sight. First i tried to be the man to figure out why he would want his wife to be in hijab in a country where most women were showing their faces. What does he think is unique about the face and body of his wife that they must be so hidden. Then i tried to be the woman to see why i would accept an existence where when walking i can barely see the two-and-a-half-feet long road that culminates at the heels of my husband. My imagination was injured by imagining both roles…’

‘In 2009, burqa/hijab/purdah hit the Western news stands with intensity because of the controversy generated by the legislated ‘ab-use’ of it by the French government.’

‘Most recently, and as late as this last winter, i was confronted by a black member of the Muslim brotherhood at Scott Road Station in line for a bus to Newton Exchange. In love with his own voice, the Preacher went on and on about the absolute necessity for women to observe purdah and the unforgiveability of not observing it. As an illustration of his preferences, and of an exemplary state of a Muslim woman, he pointed out to me a burqa-wearing woman who was also in the same line. The ‘discussion’ became an argument; the woman in burqa did not participate…’

‘Last month, i spotted a woman in burqa at Broadway skytrain station who later chose to sit beside me while coming to Surrey. She caught my eye because though in burqa, she was standing straight without covering her face. From the fair color of her skin, i assumed she was Iranian or Lebanese. On the skytrain, she made patronizing attempts to converse with me that made me feel suspicious of her intentions. It seemed, she was hoping to convert a chadar-wearing brown woman to stricter disciplines. And then, it came out that she was an Anglo Saxon convert to Islam. I offered her my poetry chapbook that had just come out. She skimmed through it, stopping at ‘My Shariah-Compliant Bra’ and ‘My Drone-Dead Lover’, and then she shut it close producing a sharp noise; ‘I don’t read poetry’, she thrust it back at me. This is one of the rare instances when i was happy to be rejected as a poet. I consider it a compliment to be rejected by an Anglo-Saxon-woman-convert-to-Islam who was using the burqa to gain high moral ground so that she can preach purdah to wayward and ignorant brown Muslim women.’

A blog post on purdah:
Purdah Manifestations

The next item is a song by Mariam Zohra, a founding member and the Creative Director of Surrey Muse. The song is about East Vancouver’s Tent City that came up a few years back as a protest against urban poverty and homelessness. Tent City had activists camp out in a park during the summer. This is an excerpt, and the link to the song is at the end of it.

get your ensemble
oh teacher
wanna talk about
tent city
what are people
doin in Oppenheimer Park?
what are people doing
parking tents, tents at the park,

get up get up
I don’t know you gotta find out for yourself
we can talk about
tent city

Lyrics/Vocals: Mariam Zohra D. Music: Michael Louw. Song Composition: Michael Louw & Mariam Zohra D. 
Tent-City Song

Next is a spoken word item that has become written text now, so i’ll just read it to you.

‘It was a beautiful, warm and golden summer day. I was visiting a home in East Vancouver, and while the host made tea, I stood by the window and enjoyed being part of a quite residential street lined with thick old trees. Narrower than most streets in Surrey, it had a small park on one side and prosperous and old single family homes on the other. As I took in the view, a man appeared from one end of my vision of the road, in the way he walked he seemed to be a part of the street, the trees, of leaves, and the breeze rustling through them. It was as if he was gliding, smiling for sure. Then he passed right in front of me, dancing on tiptoes, twirling something in his other hand. Just watching him was a privilege. Seeing his back, I noticed that he was wearing a white sleeveless tank top, arms full of black, blue and red tattoos, with white cotton shorts over tattooed legs. It was a tall white guy with brown hair. And just then, I heard sirens, shattering the peace on the street with shocking accuracy. A police car came out of nowhere, zoomed past me, and hit hard breaks inches from the guy. By the time, the police car stopped and a cop jumped out, two other police cars were already there blocking the road on the other side, and a couple of cops were making their way toward him from the park.
The next moment, the guy was pinned to the road, and cops were holding him down while another stood ready with a tazer aimed at him. They mauled him, searched him, and then came away. They had ‘recovered’ a long white feather.
‘Sorry, Sir, we received a call from a property owner on the street who thought you were wielding a dangerous weapon, like a long knife ‘with glittering white blade’, they said.’
And then after deliberating among each other, they returned the feather to the guy, and left while the guy stood bewildered amidst shattered shards of a peaceful sunny afternoon.
The white guy was on a rare summer vacation from Newfoundland.’

Unpublished item.
It was presented in readings at Surrey and New Westminster.

Now, we have Jamie Reid’s poem PRAYER that I first heard from Vancouver’s wonderful slam poet RC Weslowski at the September gathering of Surrey Muse, just after Reid moved on. Last night, Heidi Greco was kind enough to lend me the anthology with the poem in it. I’ll just present what occurs most often in the poem, the refrain. As well, not just the refrain but the whole poem is in capitals- a form of protest, shouting or both, i guess.

By Jamie Reid


Pages 74-76.
‘Revolving City’, eds. Compton & Saklikar, Anvil Press 2015

So far:
In the first item, the migrant character Skeena sees the new place as a continuity instead of a break, an important distinction. Purdah Manifestations shows how specific issues are faced by each of us in all our different social locations, ‘us’ includes everyone, colored/white migrants and indigenous peoples. The Tent City song points to poverty as integral to the cityscape, an issue that seeks resolutions. In the so-called spoken word item, the white man with a white feather brings out class as an entrenched form of othering, and Jamie Reid’s poem touches the heartache where the city destroys the land and the landscape. And this brings us to our last two items: an image and a slogan.

The image is of a new city park in Seattle.

fromthehungsrsiteFrom the Hungersite.

Seattle’s new city park reminds us of Havana where in the decade after the sanctions were placed on Cuba the average Cuban adult lost 20 lbs. But by the end of that same decade…

The average Cuban was getting ‘2600 calories and more than 68 grams of protein, an amount considered “sufficient” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. By 2006 average caloric intake was up to 3356 calories. A lot of this food was produced not in the countryside (requiring transport to the cities) but in urban gardens, where food was grown and consumed in the same neighborhood. By 2002, 35,000 acres of urban gardens produced 3.4 million tons of food. In Havana, 90% of the city’s fresh produce came from local urban farms and gardens, all organic. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans were employed in urban agriculture. In 2003, Cuba had reduced its use of Diesel fuel by more than 50%, synthetic fertilizers by 90%, and chemical insecticides by 83%.’

Surrey, the City of Parks and of Future, is best-placed to turn some of its manicured parkland to nutritious food forests in anticipation of a delightful urban future.

And now, the slogan. We have about three renditions of it, and i think we’ll be able to choose one easily.
The first:
A Tree For A Tree
The second:
A Tree For Every Tree
And the third:
A Tree For Every Profit-Damned Earth-Loving Brown Ass Tree

All in favor of the third one, raise hands.
On second thoughts, in the interest of brevity and simplicity, we better choose the first.

To view the context of slogans, check this poem presented the previous night at the Literary Cabaret.
‘Good news…’

Thank you, it was a great pleasure to be with you today and to participate in this 2-day event.

Snap Crackle Hum: Electromagnetism Sound and Audio Art – Surrey Art Gallery Oct 21/12

Quietly encircling our planet and indispensible to our various electronic devices, electromagnetic waves are everywhere around us. Unperceivable to the human ear, they carry a big bang – sound! Electromagnetism, its power, potential and problems, intrigue artists working with the medium of sound. This subject is the focus of:
Snap, Crackle, Hum: Electromagnetism, Sound and Audio Art
Surrey Art Gallery’s
4th Annual Sound Thinking symposium
on Sunday, October 21
13750 – 88 Avenue, 1 block east of King George Blvd, in Bear Creek Park
Admission is free
Donations are gratefully received.
Seating is limited

This one-day event will bring together leading practitioners and professionals in the field of sound art and the study of sound to present art and research on sound and contemporary culture.

Keynote speaker: Douglas Kahn
Author of the forthcoming book Arts of the Spectrum: In the Nature of Electromagnetism, and Professor of Media and Innovation at the National Institute for Experimental Arts at the University of New South Wales, Australia
Presentations: Carrie Bodle, Alejandra Bronfman, Peter Courtemanche, Gordan Djurdjevic, Jay Bundy Johnson, Elemental Harmonics (Celia King and Joel Snowden)
Performance: Kristen Roos
Conveners: Ross Birdwise and Jordan Strom

Artists working in sound offer a critical and creative perspective on the history of man-made electricity. They also explore and contribute to the development of new technologies of communication, the study of geophysical electromagnetism, and reconsider the nature and structure of sound. Snap, Crackle, Hum: Electromagnetism, Sound and Audio Art features presentations by scholars and artists. An artist will also present a performance designed to address the complex relationships between electromagnetism, technology, science, the paranormal, and contemporary art. The aesthetics, poetics and history of electromagnetic sound will be examined, as well as how electromagnetic technologies are reshaping human subjectivity and the social world.

Sound Thinking is part of the Surrey Art Gallery’s Open Sound program. Open Sound 2012: On Air, Underground: Making The Inaudible Audible is a series of sound art installations situated in the Surrey Art Centre’s public spaces. The artists in this year’s Open Sound exhibition are Kristen Roos, Alex Grünenfelder, and Debashis Sinha. Open Sound 2012 is curated by Ross Birdwise.

Founded in 2008, the Surrey Art Gallery’s Sound Thinking symposium is an annual one day event which brings together practitioners and professionals in the field of sound art. The symposium features leading sound artists, scholars and researchers in the field sound studies, along with visual artists who use sound as key components of their practice, and musicians who experiment with the limits of music and sound. Past symposia have addressed subjects as diverse as radiophonic space, voice in contemporary installation art, new approaches to ethnographic sound, and acoustic ecology.

Surrey Art Gallery
604-501-5566 | www.surrey.ca/arts
13750 – 88 Avenue, 1 block east of King George Blvd, in Bear Creek Park

Uddari Weblog

Group exhibition Scenes of Selves – Occasions for Ruses: Surrey Sept 15/12

Pushpamala N and Clare Arni, Cracking the Whip (after 1970s Tamil film still)
C-print 2000-2004, Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum

A Surrey Art Gallery Exhibition and Artist’s Talk
Curated by Jordan Strom

Artist’s Talk – Carol Sawyer: September 15, 6:30pm
Opening Reception – Formal Remarks: 7:45pm, Live music mix by Scott Morgan: September 15, 7:30-9:30pm
Exhibition -Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses: September 15 to December 16, 2012
Artists: Jim Andrews, Eryne Donahue, David Horvitz, Roselina Hung, Suzy Lake, Elizabeth Milton, Pushpamala N and Clare Arni, Carol Sawyer, and Carrie Walker.

Surrey Art Gallery’s new group exhibition Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses features artworks by 10 artists in a wide variety of media – including drawing, painting, photography, and video – that explore the nature of identity, particularly self identity, at the beginning of the 21st century.

In the era of status updates, photo sharing websites, and profile pictures, one’s image and therefore one’s identity presented to the world is more important, changeable, and multi-dimensional than ever before.

Portrayals of oneself have come a long way since Dürer and Rembrandt developed self-portraiture as an artistic genre in the 16th and 17th centuries. Contemporary artists have made self-portraiture – and representation of themselves as stand-ins for ‘the other’ – a vibrant centre of art making today. As new communication tools have led to identity becoming increasingly connected to complex and overlapping social networks, today’s artists are re-examining self-representation at the limits of self-portraiture. How artists see and represent themselves reveals much about how we perceive ourselves and others.

Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses includes Eryne Donahue’s translation of Facebook portraits into astronomical star charts using new biometric facial recognition technologies; Carrie Walker’s graphite drawing of every person named Carrie Walker she could find on the Internet; and Pushpamala N and Clare Arni’s photo-performances of female types from South Asian cinema, 19th century Indian painting, and the photography of westerners who have travelled to the Indian subcontinent.

Surrey Art Gallery is presenting two other exhibitions on the theme of self-representation. Echoes of the Artist: Works from the Permanent Collection explores images in which artists creatively incorporate representations of themselves or aspects of their lives. The artists are Alberta Browne, Diana Burgoyne, Barbara Cole, Janieta Eyre, Marianne Forsythe, George Littlechild, Al McWilliams, David Neel, Al Neil, Joseph Plaskett, Drew Shaffer, Henry Tsang, and Jin-me Yoon. Mirror Mirror is a juried exhibition organized by the Arts Council of Surrey of 30 self-portraits by emerging and established British Columbia-based artists.

Scenes of Selves, Occasions for Ruses exhibiting artist Carol Sawyer will be talking about her project titled Some Documents From the Life of Natalie Brettschneider, an ongoing series of photographs, texts, and music recitals that reconstructs the life and work of a fictional, genre-blurring historical performance artist. Brettschneider is a construction, but her story is laced with references to real people and places. The archive starts with her childhood in British Columbia, continues through her participation in the Parisian avant-garde between the wars, and includes evidence of her eccentric music and art-making practice in rural BC after she returns to Canada in the late 1930’s. Surrey Art Gallery will feature newly discovered photographs of Brettschneider’s time in Surrey, BC. The project forms a feminist critique of art historical narrative conventions: it aims to illuminate what gets left out of these stories, and the ways in which photographs are used to support cultural assumptions about gender, age, authorship, and art-making.

Carol Sawyer is a Vancouver-based visual artist and singer who works with photography, installation, video, and improvised music. Over the past 20 years, Sawyer’s work has investigated the connections between photography and fiction, performance, memory, and history.

Opening Reception
Saturday, September 15, 7:30-9:30pm

Free event; donations gratefully received

Surrey Art Gallery
13750 – 88 Avenue,
Surrey, British Columbia
Canada. 604-501-5566 |www.surrey.ca/arts

TO SEPT 15: Mon & Fri 9am-5pm | Tues-Thur 9am-9pm | Sat 10am-5pm | Closed Sundays & holidays; FROM SEPT 16: Tues-Thurs 9am-9pm | Fri 9am-5pm | Sat 10am-5pm | Sun 12-5pm | Closed Mondays & holidays

Dislocutions: a panel discussion on art and translation – Surrey Oct 15/11

With Lorna Brown, Fauzia Rafique, Emilio Rojas
Surrey Art Gallery
Saturday October 15

To engage in the act of translation means to render significance, to transfer meaning from one language to another, to ‘carry across’, to encode and decode, to betray, to transmutate. Translation is a process that almost always involves loss, and often, substantial accumulations of meaning; it is an act that is commonly marked by unequal relationships of power. Artists have long seen themselves as translators of the world – especially of its accepted norms and hidden truths. Yet, due in part, to late 20th century globalization and partially due to the changing nature of global conflict, both of which has produced increased migration, mobility, and displacement, and thus resulted in significant cultural collisions and transformations across the globe.

These social transformations, along with a rich wellspring of practices and ideas associated with translation in the past century, are among the important factors that have resulted in translation becoming such a key subject for many artists at the beginning of the new century.

The title of the talk, Dislocutions, is borrowed from James Joyce and adapted by scholar-curator Sarat Maharaj; it is a term which refers to the uneven misshapen qualities of translation, and the double disruption of place and speech. The panel discussion ‘Dislocutions: a panel discussion on art and translation’ will ask questions about how translation has influenced recent visual art and writing practices in the context of Vancouver’s Lower Mainland.

Jordan Strom, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections will moderate the discussion.

Lorna Brown works between art making, curating, and writing to explore interests in social phenomena such as boredom, administrative structures and systems, and the dynamics of public spaces. Recent exhibitions include The Chatter of Culture, Artspeak, Vancouver; Threshold (cont.) at the Koerner Library at UBC. Recent independent curatorial and editorial projects include Group Search: art in the library and Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties, an online digital archive.

Fauzia Rafique is a Vancouver-based writer of fiction and poetry. Her English and Punjabi writings have been published in Canada and Pakistan. Print titles include the English and Punjabi publications of Skeena (Surrey 2011, Lahore 2007), a chapbook of English and Punjabi poetry ‘Passion fruit-Tahnget Phal’ (Surrey 2011), and an anthology Aurat Durbar: The Court of Women: writings by Women of South Asian Origin (Sumach Press, Toronto 1995).

Emilio Rojas was born in Mexico City and is currently resides in Vancouver, Canada. Rojas is a multimedia and performance artist whose works explore the relation between the artist and audience, with many of his works involving interaction and exchange of roles with the viewer. Rojas’s artwork, marked by their creative use of diverse found materials, seeks to re-evaluate politics, ritual, gender, secrecy in communication, and translation. Rojas has exhibited in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Austria, England, Germany, Italy and Australia.

This panel discussion is presented in conjunction with three visual art exhibitions addressing language, translation and identity: Brendan Fernandes: Disscontinent, Finding Correspondences (with works by Digital Natives, Soheila K. Esfahani, Mark Neufeld, Emilio Rojas, Tony Romano, and Ming Wong), and Dipna Horra: Dhunia–Part One.

Surrey Art Gallery is located at 13750 – 88 Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada.
Mon & Fri 9am-5pm | Tues-Thur 9am-9pm | Sat 10am-5pm | Sun Noon-5pm | Closed holidays

The Surrey Art Gallery acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council and City of Surrey for their continued support.

To receive announcements about exhibitions and related events, sign up for e-bulletins at www.surrey.ca/arts.